Who Says it’s the New Year?
Every year about this time, people start thinking in two directions – backward at the year behind and forward to the year ahead. This is pretty normal, even if the “new” is only in our minds. Some will tell you that the new year is an arbitrary human construct that has no factual basis. They will say that time is… well, a lot of things, some correct, some incorrect and others just confusing. But the central point always comes back to our measurement of time. We set a certain day as an ending and the following day as a new beginning.
There is a certain beautiful logic to it. Our calendar is based on the Earth’s annual race around the sun. But who says where that race starts and ends? Apparently, it all started with the Roman calendar, but that method had issues, so Julius Ceasar invented a new calendar around 45BC – the Julian of course. Ceasar’s way was an improvement, but it gained a little time over the course of the year (1 day every 128 years according to Wikipedia).
Not satisfied with that, Pope Gregory XIII updated the Julian calendar in 1582 and renamed it – you guessed it – the Gregorian calendar. (It only gains one day every 3030 years.) Spiffy, but not perfect, so a leap year was inserted to keep things running on schedule.
Oddly enough, the way we measure time, and its consequent beginnings and endings, has very little to do with the way we view the year just passed. Inevitably, the year will be better for some than for others. Opinions will vary on whether it was a good year or a bad one.
The (More Important) Point
Lately, I’m seeing a lot of posts on SM saying what a sucky year 2017 was. And, maybe they have a point. A number of very sucky things did happen. Things (and a few people) I wish would go away, or reverse themselves, or magically rectify themselves (which sounds dirty, but isn’t). But the thing is – I saw a lot of similar posts at the beginning of 2017 regarding the general suckiness of 2016.
So I started thinking. (Fair warning. This is generally where it gets scary.)
The fact is, we can probably look back over every year we’ve ever known and pick out sucky bits. Things that hurt. That didn’t go the way they should, or the way we would have liked. There are tragedies, disasters, acts of murder and mayhem, losses, in every grouping of 365 days we have ever seen. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how great your luck is. Everyone suffers through difficulties, and they do it every year. If there is anyone out there who has had an entire year of unadulterated good fortune and joy, please comment below. I’d like to hear how you did it and copy your methodology step for step.
So, if every annum has its quotient of suckfests, what makes the difference between a good year and a bad one? At what precise point do the scales tip?
Where is Your Focus?
I would like to humbly submit that the tipping point lies in our focus. Are we focusing on the evil that seems to pervade our world – or on the good that shines through it in nearly every circumstance? Are we training our gaze on the cesspool that Washington has become, or on the new surge of political awareness and activism that has risen in response? Are we staring at the fires, the earthquakes, the hurricanes? Or are we grateful for the helpers, the outreach, the stories of bravery and kindness that come through the dark like beacons of hope in the storm?
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not suggesting that the bad isn’t bad. The political and natural disasters that have befallen us have been frightening, and for many, devastating. I have spent many a night throughout 2017 watching the news, outraged and worried and shocked. But, the bad is always there. It was there in 45BC. It was there in 1582 and it was there in 2017. Sadly, I suspect it will be there again in 2018.
But so is the good.
The good is there in the hands that reach out to help. In the decisions made every day to do better – be better. The good is there in
the children who start charitable endeavors, in the firefighters and police who risk themselves to save others. It lives in those who choose to stand against oppression and speak the truth, and in those who choose to listen and believe. It works in each of us if, and to the extent that, we choose to let it.
In the worst of our losses in 2017, there remained a glimmer of hope. We need to look for it, fight for it sometimes. Occasionally, we need to create it ourselves out of whole cloth, but the hope is there, nonetheless.
Our work is to focus on that hope, and use it to build a beautiful year.
How will you build a beautiful year in 2018?